Community garden comes to Lincoln Park 'food desert'

The streets of Lincoln Park are lined with bars and declining businesses, but not a single grocery store is in sight. Recently, though, the community has finally been given some hope.

In October 2012, Duluth received a $25,000 grant from a national nonprofit organization, Cities of Service, to counteract the lack of accessible grocery stores in the neighborhood. The City of Service Impact Volunteering Fund is a $2 million fund used to help cities address local challenges.

“Lincoln Park is classified by the USDA as a ‘food desert,’” said Cheryl Skafte, Duluth’s volunteer coordinator. “The city hopes to be a partner in addressing the food concerns of the Lincoln Park community.”

The city of Duluth has partnered with the Duluth Community Garden Program (DCGP), as well as the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition, to begin engaging with the Lincoln Park community in dealing with these food access issues.

These community partners decided to submit a proposal to the Cities of Service organization in hopes of bringing the benefits of gardening to the community and better addressing food concerns. The garden will be known as the Emerald Garden and will be located at 20th Avenue West and Fourth Street.

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“The $25,000 is all being spent to support the development of the Lincoln Park community garden site,” Skafte said.

The time frame for the grant is for one year, and disbursement of funds will start during the spring and summer of this year. The grant focuses on expanding neighborhood education on the benefits of gardening and utilizing an otherwise empty lot as a way to encourage community involvement.

“It’s a positive opportunity to work as a community,” said Mayor Don Ness.

Ness said that the garden is a great way to show this and that people will enjoy being able to work with their neighbors.

Classes and workshops will be held at the Lincoln Park Middle School for a small fee, and they will vary based on what people are interested in learning about. Members of the DCGP as well as other community supporters will teach Gardening 101 workshops.

Money from the grant is also going towards prep work and covering staff and AmeriCorps costs. The grant will cover all the costs for the garden space, such as fencing, a storage shed, plants, an informational kiosk, a water catchment system, picnic tables and a compost unit.

According to Jahn Hibbs, executive director of the DCGP, the garden will fill up two city lots that were already cleared of brush and prepped for the garden during this past fall for the upcoming planting season.

“It’s a great opportunity to really focus on year-round support from gardens,” Hibbs said. “Definitely a trend right now.”

Skafte said that organizers of the community garden still need to come up with ways to measure the impact of the grant. Knowing the impact of the grant will help them set specific goals for further progress. Meeting these goals will allow Duluth to obtain an additional grant of $5,000, Skafte said.

The goals of the community garden include producing 1,700 pounds of fruits and vegetables, having between 12 to 30 gardeners working together, teaching over 50 participants at the gardening classes, and bringing in over 100 community members to events related to the garden.

Hibbs said that gardening is a great way to stretch the family food dollar, and it creates a fun activity for families that provides affordable, healthy food.

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